Consumer and Home Design Trends

Industry Pulse: Starter Home Solutions in an Expensive Market (a Refresh)

Anja Seng photo

Anja Seng

April 29, 2024

Back in 2016, we shared smart solutions for building a starter home in expensive markets. Today, most of those principles still apply (e.g., increasing density or minimizing HOA dues).

However, we’re not just here to rehash the same advice. Here are three solutions that weren’t on the list that we would add.

1. Paring Down to Pocket Size

Chatham Park Cottages in Pittsboro, NC
Fresh Paint by Garman Homes | Rustic Charm Design

The Chatham Park Cottages in Pittsboro, NC, are scaled down to bare necessities yet maintain livability. Fresh Paint by Garman Homes’ Hot Chocolate plan is a prime example. At a petite 826 square feet with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, the home makes tradeoffs on size without sacrificing function.

For example, instead of a full dining area, they included a dining nook, and instead of a walk-in pantry, they tucked in a pantry niche behind a barn door. Vaulted ceilings make up for the tradeoffs and help the home feel bigger. Front porches open to shared lawns, encouraging residents to step outside and enjoy the outdoors. These starter homes started in the $200,000s and sold out within a year of opening in April 2021.

2. Compromising on the Two-Car Garage

Hyde at NUVO Parkside in Ontario, CA
The New Home Company | Bassenian Lagoni Architects | Studio Mosaic

Hyde at NUVO Parkside includes 90 three-story detached homes that achieve high density of 17 units per acre. Home prices start in the low $500,000s as of 2023, which is a great deal for this market. The keys to achieving density and keeping these homes more attainable were building up and going narrow. 

The New Home Company’s smallest offering at Hyde, Plan 1, has a one-car garage (with adjacent parking space), allowing it to be a narrow 17 feet wide. The two-car garage is one feature that many younger buyers are willing to forego to get into starter homes. Our consumer research shows that about one-fourth of Gen Z homeowners would accept a 1-car garage. Bassenian Lagoni Architects said the compact footprint allowed them to achieve density with a very livable floor plan. Despite being narrow and densely plotted, the homes’ detached nature gives them room to breathe. 

3. Build-to-Rent

Farm Haus in San Antonio, TX
AHV Communities | KTGY | Mary DeWalt Design Group | MP Studio
Landscape Architecture

According to our annual built-to-rent tenant survey, 73% of tenants would prefer to own, but home prices are the most significant concern preventing them from buying. Build-to-rent homes provide the same lifestyle as for-sale “starter” homes without the big financial hurdle. 

Farm Haus by AHV Communities is a community of 142 two-story duplexes between 1,100 and 1,700 square feet, with private backyards. Features like stainless steel kitchen appliances, luxury vinyl plank flooring, quartz countertops, and smart tech packages keep these homes modern and durable. Beyond the home, an amenity center with a 24-hour fitness center, clubhouse, resort-style pool, fire pits and grills, lawn games, and a dog park provide that sense of community that scattered rental homes or apartments might not offer. Tenants get all that Farm Haus has to offer for just over $2,100 a month (as of May 2023) and no down payment or homeowner maintenance. 

To learn more about smart solutions for building a starter home, reach out to Anja Seng. Complete this form to learn about becoming a New Home Trends Institute member.

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About The Author

Anja Seng photo
Anja Seng
Senior Research Analyst, Design
Anja assists in the production of monthly DesignLens features and manages the New Home Trends Institute (NHTI) Instagram account. Additional responsibilities include helping run New Home Trends Institute’s Master Plan Trends Council and designing external presentations.

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